|Dimensions||12.5 × .8 × 12.5 cm|
Best known as the guitarist/mandolin player from Rough Red, Steve has just released his debut solo album. TEMPLE DOG is an eclectic mix of contemporary story-based folk songs, with nods to roots and jazz, delivered with innovative musicianship by Steve and a team of fine local players. Stories gleaned from Steve’s travels through exotic locations such as India, Russia, Japan, and Vietnam, are interspersed with tales of post 9-11 trauma, family skeletons, caustic political satire, and matters of the heart. www.stevetyson.com.au
Review of TEMPLE DOG in Folk Rag magazine (May 2011)
“TEMPLE DOG” Steve Tyson
While Steve Tyson has been a regular fixture around the Brisbane music scene for many years, he is probably best known to us folkies as the guitarist, mandolin player and songwriter with local hero’s Rough Red.
This is his first solo album and the songs represent to the listener a series of postcards from a life well spent. Thirteen songs that, in his own words, encapsulate Steve’s extensive travels through exotic locations like India, Russia, Japan, Bhutan and Vietnam interspersed with tales of post 9-11 trauma, family skeletons, caustic political satire, and matters of the heart.
It all started in 2009 when Steve and his wife Karen spent an idyllic few months living in Paris. Every day Steve would disappear to a little cafe around the corner, hoping to draw on the inspiration of this beautiful city and the great Ernest Hemingway and write a novel. However, the notebooks soon became full of poems and stories and journal entries that became the foundation of the songs on this album.
With the help of some fantastic Brisbane musicians, Chrissy Euston on accordion and harmonica, Joe Cryle on pedal steel and dobro; Ben Hooper on cello, Dave Lee on violin, Dave Spicer on piano, Lee Matthews on double bass, and Dave Cotgreave on drums and Sarah Collyer duets with Steve on one song. Former Rough Red band mates John Barr and Dave Parnell played bass and drums and Dave also engineered and produced this album.
The quality of Steve’s voice as the opening track ‘Road’ begins is a surprise. It’s breathy, almost fragile quality draws the listener in like an intimate embrace. Track highlights for me are ‘War Torn’, a song about wars, from WW2 to Vietnam to the recent wars including Pakistan and the emotional scars that result. Bluesy, distorted guitars and wailing harp punctuate the succinct, poignant lyrics. My favourite is the tale of lost love ‘To Be There’. Pedal steel, mandolin and cello combine in a lilting wistful reverie.
‘Old Whores’ was inspired by a trip to Russia where Steve saw the headquarters for the KGB. It is a sultry jazz track with sparse piano, double bass and drum accompaniment. Steve trades vocals with Sarah Collyer to create a very mellow groove.
‘The Great Divide’ has a happy country feel with some fantastic fiddling and pedal steel.
Just as the subjects are as vast as their locations around the globe, so are the musical styles on this album. Each track moves seamlessly from blues, rock, jazz and even country. Just when you think you have a handle on the groove, the next track will catch you unawares.
Steve is performing around town with The Industrious Felons featuring regular collaborator Dave Parnell on drums and guitar, John Barr on bass, and Chrissy Euston (from Stockade) on accordion, mandolin, and harmonica.
As the great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination…” I’d hazard a guess that if this album represents his recent journey’s, he’ll be hoping he doesn’t arrive at his destination any time soon.
By Cathy Bell
CD Review by Chris Spencer
Tyson is a member of Rough Red, a Queensland folk rock band. The material he has recorded here is far removed from that band’s work. Instead of the driving back beat of drums, this album relies on acoustic guitars, harmonicas, mandolins and accordions. The drums are brushed rather than hit, providing a different sound.
He does however enlist members of Rough Red to assist on the album. John Barr and Dave Parnell provide assistance with the musical accompaniment and the song writing.
Steve tackles a few difficult issues on this album. There are songs about traveling and experiencing other cultures (“Road”, “The Spice of Life”, “Crowded with Mist Again”); others tackle war (“Old Whores”, “War Torn” in which he reflects on the risk of his brother being called up for service in Vietnam). The two anchor pieces of the album are “Yesterday was Free, Today it’s a Dollar Fifty” which describes one man’s dislocation after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and the next song, “The Ballad of Thomas Keating” which describes one family’s experiences with a violent father.
“The Great Divide” comments on the situation in Palestine while “What you Hear is What You Get” is a song written for his ageing father. “Dancing like a Diplomat” takes a poke at international politics.
I thought it was a good idea of Tyson’s to write a bit of background about each song, providing some more insight into why he wrote the song.
So far I’ve been talking about the song lyrics, but I should mention the high calibre of the music. “The Spice of Life” features some excellent guitar playing, “So Lonely” features a ripper electric guitar solo, “Old Whore” is slow jazz with piano and double bass with Sarah Collyer on guest vocals singing one verse; “So Lonely” and “The Great Divide” have some country instrumentation, “What You Hear” is a waltz while the last track, “Dancing Like a Diplomat” has some tasty wah-wah guitar courtesy of Steve.
In all an impressive cd.
CD Review by Noel Mengel Extract of a review in the Courier Mail BRISBANE-raised songwriter Steve Tyson has always been something of a traveller. That may have been instilled In him at a young age, when he lived in Japan with his parents (his father is the acclaimed ABC broadcaster Russ).
He has had his eyes and ears open for interesting stories to use in songs ever since, and he covers much territory in this solo debut after many years playing with folk-rock outfit Rough Red. Some of the writing for the album started on a Parisian sojourn two years ago.
And you never know what scene will produce a song, such as the fork in the road on a drive to Chennai in India and the handwritten sign, “Left is right”.
That inspired Road, which bounces like an old car on a bumpy track. And Tyson’s return to Japan, 40 years on, produced the delicate East-meets-West tune Crowded With Mist Again.
There are family stories, too.
What You Hear Is What You Get is the deeply moving song Taylor wrote for his father on his 90th birthday last year, and The Ballad of Thomas Keating is about the great-grandfather from County Clare and his son who served time on St Helena in Moreton Bay.
This is music with roots that go down deep, a stripped-back acoustic sound yet rich too, from the jazz chords of Old Whores to the bittersweet folk-pop of The Great Divide.
All of Temple Dog is strong, but try to hear Yesterday Was Free, Today It’s a $1.50, a true story about an Australian in New York on 9/11 waking up in a New Jersey hospital and his harrowing tale of trying to make his way back home.
8 in stock (can be backordered)